Two bills being drafted on Capitol Hill could have a significant impact on the U.S. music industry, Billboard Bulletin reports. A Senate measure, sponsored by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) would give n

Two bills being drafted on Capitol Hill could have a significant impact on the U.S. music industry, Billboard Bulletin reports. A Senate measure, sponsored by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) would give new life to out-of-print recordings by allowing artists to bring them back to market. Ownership of recordings is not addressed in the bill, and therefore would continue to reside at the record company.

The bill would give labels the first right to reissue the works. If they pass, the artist can release the work. In a twist, artists would pay royalties to record companies at the same rate they received in their original contracts. The recordings could be licensed to webcasters and other third parties, who would pay either a compulsory license royalty rate or a rate imposed by the Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel.

Hatch says the bill provides "substantial benefit" for artists. "It ought not threaten the major labels' CD sales since these are out-of-print tracks," he says. "The benefits could run to the artists, or to all legitimate services, including the label-owned services."

A Recording Industry Association of America spokesperson, citing this week's catalog deal between Universal Music Group and EMusic as a way the industry is dealing with the issue, says "this is not an area appropriate for legislation."

Hatch's bill also weighs in on direct payment to artists of digital royalties and seeks reforms of provisions in current record contracts. "We should address the relevance of such traditional charges against artist royalties as those for breakage, returns, free goods, etc., in the context of digital distribution," he said. "Digital distribution could ultimately prove a boon in reproduction and distribution cost-savings, which ought to be shared with the artists."

He also will incorporate a provision that allows artists to own their domain names if they leave a label. The other major provision would call for the creation of an online registry at the Copyright Office for more efficient online licensing of musical compositions.

The second bill, sponsored in the House by Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) would help the music industry battle abusers of file sharing by legalizing measures such as interdiction, file-blocking, and spoofing that can be used to interfere with peer-to-peer services such as Napster and Audiogalaxy.

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